How sweet it is: The Skinny on Low Glycemic Sweeteners Recipe
The market for alternative sweeteners has started blossoming into quite the selection - no longer are consumers tied down to shopping at obscure health food stores or sending away bulk orders to specialty shops to find alternative ingredients, now super markets and even corner stores are following the trend which is shifting toward using natural whole ingredients.
While our quest for natural ingredients may have started as a trend, it may --- as a result of decades of digesting over processed, convenience type foods that saturate the market and whose establishments flood food courts and tend to cluster urban sprawl --- be a necessity to help reverse the ill-effects we have brought on ourselves through poor food choices.
In this post I want to concentrate on sweeteners that are suitable for diabetics. Those sweeteners that are low-glycemic. I will show some examples of each category of low glycemic sweeteners: unrefined, sugar alcohol, artificial, and herbal sweeteners.
There are many choices for alternative sweeteners. Natural, unrefined low-glycemic alternatives include:
Brown Rice SyrupW, which comes in different grades and gluten-free versions. It is normally used in cooking or baking ,by substituting a ratio of 1 1/4 times BRS to 1 amount of honey, molasses, or all-purpose (refined) sugar called for in a recipe [if using BRS to substitute for AP sugar - reduce liquids in your recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of BRS used]. The main component of BRS is maltose and several complex carbohydrates - which are absorbed very slowly by our bodies, making it a good low glycemic W choice.
Agave NectarW or Agave Syrup, is produced commercially in Mexico. Juice is expressed from the core of the agave, called the piña. The juice is filtered, then heated, to hydrolyze carbohydrates into sugars. Sources I have read say: "It is not manufactured from starch, but rather from fructans.  Due to its fructose content and the fact that the glycemic index only measures glucose levels, agave syrup is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than many other natural sweeteners on the market.  When using Agave, substitute 25% less for sweeteners called for in a recipe (ratio of 3/4 Agave to 1 cup refined sugar or other sweeteners), you will need to reduce your liquids by as much as 1/3. If using for baking make sure to reduce your oven temp by 25 F°.
Other low-glycemic Sweeteners options consist of Sugar derived alcohols such as:
There are many more sugar alcohol alternatives. Most are great because they actually prevent tooth decay, and they can be used in producing hard candies and confections. (seen allot in dental offices) The downside to these sweeteners is after a certain amount is eaten - it produces a laxative effect.
Another option and maybe the most well known category of low-glycemic sweeteners are those that are artificial. These artificial sweeteners have been largely used in commercialized products.
SplendaW , a.k.a Sucralose is approximately 600 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar), twice as sweet as saccharin, and four times as sweet as aspartame and can be found in 4,500 products. Unlike aspartame, it is stable under heat and over a broad range of pH conditions and can be used in baking or in products that require a longer shelf life.
AspartameW This sweetener is marketed under a number of trademark names, including Equal, NutraSweet, and Canderel, and is an ingredient of approximately 6,000 consumer foods and beverages sold worldwide. It is commonly used in diet soft drinks, and is provided as a table condiment in some countries. However, aspartame is not always suitable for baking because it often breaks down when heated and loses much of its sweetness.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners. and the safety of longterm ingesting. For those who cannot have sugar otherwise, these artificial sweeteners bring hope. Artificial sweeteners tend to have an unwanted aftertaste after ingested, and like Sugar Alcohol based sweeteners , they too have a laxative effect if eaten in large quantities.
The last category of low-glycemic sweeteners are herbal based. These sweeteners generally come from the parts of different herb families:
SteviaW The species Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. With its extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives.
People have told me there is a learning curve with Stevia - you have to acclimate your tastebuds to the actual taste of stevia - it is sweet, but the ratio needs to be just right or you find a bitter after taste.
Recently the Food and Drug Administration (a.k.a FDA) approved 2 Stevia derived sweeteners, a first for the United States. One of the approved sweeteners Truvia, was developed by Cargil and The Coca-cola company.
Beverage brands such as Odwalla and Sprite's New "Green" line of sodas, all are planning to feature Truvia as the main sweetener in their products geared toward eco-friendly and diet soda buying consumers.
I got a chance to try Truvia. I was pretty interested because of what people had told me about Stevia, and that made it a challenge, plus the approval of this sweetener is pretty huge in the world of herbal ingredients.
Truvia comes in packets, much like Sweet 'n' Low, or regular table sugar you find at restaurants. Each packet is equal to 2 teaspoons of regular all purpose sugar. Truvia is also a Certified Kosher ingredient.
I tasted a few grains of Truvia by themselves, and noticed a very light vanilla note, and hints of tapioca. The aroma of Truvia is also similair to tapiocca custard. The look and texture is similair to fine sugar used in professional bakeries. I got a slight tingling, almost effervescence like sensation on my tongue once I tasted the Truvia grains.
Truvia did not pass my "coffee" test. I added it to my normal brewed coffee w/ half 'n' half and got a definite bitter aftertaste, similair to that of Dandelion greens. I would say that the ratio of one packet may be adjusted according to personal taste - I would use much less.
But maybe I need to acclimate my taste buds slowly to get used to the taste of Truvia in my coffee? I consider my morning coffee a sacred practice and I think I am not yet ready to change it. My favorite alternative to sugar in coffee is Agave Nectar - this stuff is great, I prefer the light colored agave syrup, as this has the least amount of flavor profile between Light Agave syrup and Amber Agave syrup varieties. If you taste the light agave syrup on your finger, it is very similair to normal sugar in taste.
Truvia preformed well however in my baking tests. I looked through the recipes found on the Truvia website. Some of the recipes include:
I decided to try the Classic Cheesecake recipe. It was not that bad, the taste was not as different as I had expected - texture was slightly affected, not as firm as traditional cheesecake formulas, but overall if you were looking to cut out refined sugar and calories this version might be a good bet. This cheesecake recipe has 270 calories and 4 grams of sugar per serving as compared to regular cheesecake that has 310 calories and 20 grams of sugar per serving.
Overall I would say that Truvia is pretty pleasant to the palate when used in baking and is great when trying to use a natural low glycemic sugar substitute, similair to sugar in quality. The ratio of Truvia to sugar might need to be adjusted when substituting in recipes - but you can use a combination Truvia with Agave Syrup to cut the aftertaste of stevia, as they both are low-glycemic sweeteners.
You can visit the Truvia website for more info: http://truvia.com/index.html